Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Teachers don't just teach

I had a fourth grader walk into my classroom today, and she wasn't acting herself.  She came in and sat down at her desk, which was highly unusual.  I was sitting and putting some things away, so I stopped what I was doing and said, "J, are you okay?  You don't seem like yourself."  And then I asked, "Would you come help me put these things away?"

That's what got her.  She didn't want to talk, but she is always willing to help.  She came over, and instead of doing exactly what I asked, she plopped her little body right next to mine on the floor and said, tears streaming down her face, "We had to call the ambulance last night."  She proceeded to tell me the story of what had happened with her grandmother and I knew that our day was going to be a different day from what was planned.  That was okay, because today she didn't need my reading and writing lessons.  Today she needed someone that she loved to reassure her, and she needed someone that loved her to hug her and let her cry if she needed to.

When it came to writing, and she just couldn't think of a single thing to write about for the end of year writing prompt, and she said her tummy hurt, I told her to go get a drink of water and come back to me.  I knew this wasn't the stomach bug that was going around, this was J worrying about the people that she loves at home and at the hospital.  She came right back, and I told her that instead of writing the prompt that I wanted her to write about what had happened.  She wrote a beautiful narrative about what had happened.  I asked her to write her feelings, and she wrote, "I feel sad, gloomy, and my stomach hurts because I just can't stop thinking about it."  My heart broke.

As parents, we know that sometimes we send our kids to school when it's all falling apart at home, and we just hope that there is someone at school to catch our kids.  My job as a teacher isn't just to teach the required knowledge and skills.  My job is to know these kids and stop to listen.  My job is to take care of their needs.  My job is to love them.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

When you think you're alone

Every one of us feels like we are alone as a parent.  We think our kids are alone in the way they feel, and we feel like we are the only ones fighting a particular battle.

I'm here to tell you that you aren't alone, but the longer you keep it inside, the worse it's going to feel.  As simple as sharing my child's weird tooth that was growing the wrong direction in her mouth.  I'd never heard of it, but as soon as I started talking about it, all of the sudden, everyone I knew had a kid with the same freakish tooth.  As soon as Olivia shared her anxiety, more peers shared their stories of strange fears and anxiety attacks, too.

Once we open ourselves up and share the fears and worries of parenting, we realize that we aren't alone, and that others have made it through the same struggles before us.  Hello, parent of a freshman in college, I know you know exactly how I'm feeling right now with my senior who is about to graduate - please tell me that we will all be okay.  I need to hear it.  Moms who are potty training?  You're going to get to the other side.  Sleepless nights with a newborn?  Temper tantrums?  I promise, you are going to be okay.

We tend to share when our kids are little.  We have play groups and mom's clubs and our network of mommies is strong.  As we all start to get involved in life and move and go to different schools, our network fades and we often forget that we are all still struggling.  Maybe our struggles are diverging - one friend struggles through autism, one through learning disabilities, ADHD, divorce or even death.  We find our network fading.  We begin to only post the shiny, happy pictures on Facebook, thinking that all the other people are living a perfect life, so we should pretend ours is too.

I'm here to tell you that it's time to share our struggles.  Sometimes sharing helps us, and sometimes it helps the person you shared with.  But we never know when someone opening up to us will be the safety net that we need to keep us from falling.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Inspiration

We teachers are in the fight of our lives here in my little town.  We are fighting for a tax increase in order to make sure that we can keep our class sizes down and get the supplies we need in our classrooms.  One cannot argue that we are lacking in this town, but the expectations are high.

I live in the same town I teach in.  Therefore, I'm not just fighting for my students, I'm fighting for the educational opportunities for my own children.  As I read teachers defending their jobs and defending the work they do each day, I began to think about the teachers that affected my children's paths.

The oldest child had a freshman biology teacher that gave him his first real challenge and encouraged him in such a way that he rose to the challenge rather than letting it defeat him.  I'm not sure how she did it, but she did it so beautifully that he didn't even realize that she developed in him a growth mindset that would change his high school course.   She created a love of science and encouraged him to take an environmental science class.  That class, that coach and teacher, created his desire for his potential college major and has helped him to hone into a university.  Mostly because that first teacher took three minutes to speak to an eighth grader to explain why he needed to take Pre-AP Biology and not on level biology.

The oldest child also tried out for drum major his sophomore year and didn't get it.  He decided to take that defeat and do something else with his time that he couldn't have done if he were drum major.  He began to run cross country for his school.  Not the fastest runner, but his coaches still coach him and encourage him and teach him to be better every day.  The coaches that aren't just coaching a student in the sport, but coaching them in life and on how to be a better adult.

The middle child fell apart one day early in sixth grade.  She was unorganized and frustrated.  She left her class to go get something out of her locker, but instead sat at her locker in an empty hallway and cried tears of frustration.  A teacher stopped and helped my tearful child organize her locker and her binder and reassured her.  This teacher was either on her lunch or had her planning period, but stopped and took the time to help a student that wasn't one of hers.  I don't think I ever knew that teacher's name that changed the course of my daughter's middle school career.

During eighth grade, the middle child was struggling with anxiety.  She often wasn't able to stay in class and would escape in an attempt to manage her anxiety.  She found herself sitting in the Assistant Principal's Secretary's office.  This was in no way her job, but she knew she could comfort my daughter and she knew she was almost always there to be a safe haven until the anxiety subsided.

These are just the examples that I know about.  These are just the examples from the last four years, from two of my children.  These are educators who didn't just do what was in their contract, they did what was in their heart.  This is not something that I can repay to these men and women.  These are teachers who truly care about their students and will do what it takes to educate them.  There are not enough tax dollars in the world to express the impact that just one person can have on children.

I can only repay them by paying it forward to other students and parents.  You never know when you will be an inspiration to a student.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Stopping time

We were on our last night of vacation, and I was going to take pictures of my children being silly in the ocean as the sun was setting.  But then I stopped.

I stopped looking through the screen of my phone and I just watched.  I listened. Because in that moment, I knew I was watching something that would never be the same again.  This was likely our last family vacation with all of us living under one roof.  This was the beginning of the end of my nuclear family as it exists.  I wanted to soak it in through a lens that was more powerful than my camera.

I watched my children play together and laugh like I've watched them for the last seventeen years. But this time was different.  And tears streamed down my face.  

"Are you okay, Mama?"

No, no, I'm not okay.  But at the same time, everything is perfect.  This will be the year of tears that are both happy and sad tears all at the same time. 

Regrets

When Sarge and I first married, it was part of the negotiations that I would never live in a house with wheels and that he wouldn't tolerate a cat as a pet.  One of us has gone back on our word.

Just before Christmas, we got the teenage girl a kitten of her own.  Well, it was supposed to be hers.  After the bad dog finally realized that the cat wasn't a snack and had sharp claws that he wasn't afraid to use, the cat was allowed to roam freely about the house.

Quickly, I discovered that Sarge loved that cat. If he was missing for any period of time, wewould find him in Olivia's room playing with that stupid cat.  He takes the cat out with him to get the newspaper.  He tolerates the sharp claws and loves it when the cat purrs.

I used to joke that he would leave me if I ever came home with a cat.  Now I think he would take the cat with him if he ever left me.  You know, to go live in that house on wheels.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pretending

I remember when my children were younger and I would tell myself to let them talk, even though I wanted to claw my eyes out because I simply didn't care about every make and model of every car made, thankyouverymuch.

I'm reaping the rewards for keeping my eyes and pretending to listen now.  Except now I have to pretend in a different way.  I have to pretend not to be horrified by what their classmates are doing when they show me the tweets.  I have to pretend that the Vine they show me isn't awful to me.  I have to pretend that it doesn't panic me when they go off with their friends driving.  I have to pretend that the stories they tell me don't make me want to die inside and instead just respond, "what do you think of that?"  I have to pretend, again, or they will stop sharing.  And now the stakes are higher if they don't share.

Share with me when you are struggling in a relationship. Share with me when you are insecure and are trying to work your way through it. Share with me when you're thinking of doing something and you're seeking advice.   Share when you have a question about something embarrassing.  I will listen.  I will let you come to the answer you need, not give the answers I think you need.  I will not judge.  I might want to die inside, but the silence would kill me faster.

Nudes

The conversation went like this.

"Do girls ever send you nudes?"

Boy: "Ew, mom, no."

Girl: "Mom, that's not the way that works.  Boys ask for them, then girls send them."

"OH MY GOSH, YOU'D BETTER NOT ASK FOR ANY, I'LL KILL YOU."

"OH MY GOSH, AND HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS?"